Friday, June 26, 2009

Farewell Farrah

When Ed McMahon died earlier this week I turned to my husband and told him celebrities always go in threes so I didn't think it was looking very good for Farrah Fawcett and Walter Cronkite this week. I was surprised that Michael Jackson was the third celebrity to die. Well, I wasn't surprised in that anyone who has watched a loved one with an addiction or mental illness could see that the pop star was in serious trouble. I WAS surprised that he died on the same day as Farrah. It all makes me feel a little old since all three were icons of my youth. However, I smiled when I read about Farrah's passing. I smiled because it reminded me of the boys of my youth and how that famous red poster propelled some of them into puberty with the speed of a rocket.

You know the poster. Red swimsuit, no bra. N*pples blazing against the red lycra, pulling your eyes below that thousand watt smile and bouncy blond hair.In today’s world where boobs and hoo-hoos are put on display daily, that picture seems pretty harmless now, but back then it was a big deal. A really big deal. Every boy in America, and several men, had that poster. I was somewhere between fifth and seventh grade when it came out. I can't remember the year for sure, but Madd Maxx will because he was the first boy in our class to get that poster. He scored it from TV Guide before the rest of his buddies and for a while was king of the neighborhood playground where he proudly shared that poster like a marine with a new tattoo. His popularity soared among his hormonally charged buddies, and he basked in the glory. And suffered the wrath of his aunt for hanging it on his bedroom wall. Males weren't the only ones to fall under Farrah's spell. All of us girls pretended to be offended by the poster but secretly longed for Farrah's body and clamored to the beauty shop in search of luscious feathery curls. For us girls with thick, stick straight hair it was a difficult time.

Later that year, Farrah's famous pose would create one of the biggest controversies of the school year for the Franklin class of '78, the great T-shirt debate. It didn't take too long for the poster image to get slapped onto T-shirts. Men everywhere were wearing them, but in those conservative days it was rare to see someone younger than eighteen in one. One boy in our class, Jackie, was kind of quiet, so I was surprised the day he showed up in the famous Farrah shirt. We were all surprised. And impressed. We were impressed with his boldness, his bravery and his defiance of the school dress code. Personally, I was in awe of his parents’ endorsement of the n*pple display. If my brother had wanted to wear something like that to school my mother would have swatted his backside and signed him up for military school. Anyway, Jackie's move was so progressive I don't think the dress code even addressed something so scandalous. When the school day began, we immediately knew a showdown was imminent.

Looking back on it now, it reminds me of that scene in A Christmas Story where the entire class wears the fake teeth with great optimism and is quickly defeated by the teacher's firm hand. We were thrilled with Jackie's dress code defiance and indignant when the teacher immediately sent him to the office. As I recall a couple of boys made feeble Atticus Finch-like protests on behalf of Jackie and his shirt. The rest of us were too scared to say anything but supported Jackie in our hearts. As Jackie trudged silently to the principal’s office, we all waited anxiously for the result. It was like watching a lamb going to slaughter. We had an “old school” principal too, who hated to be challenged. He wielded a mean paddle, and any trip to his office could result in a flailing with the long board. Jackie returned a short time later. Again, my memory is faulty but I think he was either made to turn the shirt wrong side out or was wearing a shirt from the lost and found box . Charlie’s Angel was covered up. Our martyr in the fight for Farrah lost his battle, but we were proud of his challenge. It makes me laugh now to think about it and how much times have changed. Oh, I sound like my mother today.

Speaking of my mother, she did let my brother, SuperCop, have a Farrah puzzle. The puzzle showed Farrah in a light blue tank top, again without a bra, and I thought it was pretty progressive of her to let him have it. It was no t-shirt, but it was still pretty suggestive to a young boy. Teen Angel stumbled across that puzzle at Mama's house a few years ago and thought it was cheesy looking. She had no idea the significance that photo and the others held to so many young boys a long time ago. Poor Farrah didn't really get her due respect yesterday with all the Michael Jackson hoopla kicking in just a few hours after the announcement of her death. But while the streets of L.A. and Hong Kong are filled with folks mourning the loss of a quirky megastar, the homes of middle America are full of men who are remembering a certain red poster that carried them through puberty....and they're smiling. I'm so sorry for your loss Madd Maxx.

4 comments:

Trailboss said...

I agree that MJ's passing overshadowed Farrah's death. Dateline last night did have one hour for jackson and one hour for Farrah. But I can't help thinking that her family might fair well with not as much publicity on her. Kind of makes for a more private funeral for them. At least I hope so.

Supercop said...

That puzzle was a christmas gift from Aunt Ann. I have fond memories of mother complaining everytime I put it together. It was even hid for awhile! Ha Ha.

C.S. said...

My parents wouldn't let me have the Farrah poster, so I hung out at my friend's house down the street so I could look at his.

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